Posters at the Capitol


Save the Date!

Posters at the Capitol is currently scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16th, 2022.

Posters at the Capitol is the Undergraduate Research Center’s most prestigious annual event, during which selected MTSU students present their research* to state legislators at the state capitol alongside undergraduate representatives from other participating Tennessee universities.

*The Posters at the Capitol event, co-coordinated by the Tennessee STEM Education Center, will now only include research from within STEM fields.

Posters at the Capitol 2020

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, undergraduates from the nine Tennessee state universities presented their research posters to legislators and guests at the Tennessee State Capitol. The students were selected to represent the best of the undergraduate research at their own institutions. For 14 years, undergraduates have been presenting our state legislators with their outstanding research results in a wide variety of academic disciplines.

For more information on Posters at the Capitol including participating universities, a tentative schedule, directions/parking information, and poster information, please visit the TSEC website.

Participating Universities Include

  • Austin Peay State University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • University of Memphis
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • The University of Tennessee, Martin

MTSU News covered this year's event. Read the article.

2020 Event Photo Gallery



Media Coverage

Posters at the Capitol 2020

Read event coverage from MTSU News.

MTSU's 2020 Selected Participants

 Aric Moilanen, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Aric Moilanen

Taming Disorder in Quantum Materials

Faculty Mentor: Hanna Terletska

Abstract:The discovery of new materials is a cornerstone of human civilization and development. We live in the era of quantum materials which offer tremendous opportunities for fundamental research and advances in new-generation technologies. Progress in this field will enable energy efficient storage and transmission, faster and powerful electronic devices, novel sensors, and quantum computers. Such research can bolster economies, advance the quality of life, and address the unprecedented growth in global energy needs. One essential part of such research is the accurate simulation and theoretical modeling of these materials. However, the very same properties that make these materials so useful also make them exceedingly difficult to simulate and understand. One major obstacle is understanding the effects of disorder, or imperfections, in a material. Disorder is ubiquitous in materials and can profoundly affect their properties and functionality. The focus of our research is how disorder turns a conductor to an insulator in a phenomenon known as the metal-insulator transition (MIT). Here, we propose a new, greatly simplified model for identifying MITs in a disordered system that both agrees with past simulations and significantly reduces computational complexity, bringing us one step closer to better modeling and control of properties of quantum materials.

Lillian Beck, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Lillian Beck

Correlation Between Mean Length of Utterances in Preschoolers and Different Maternal Education Backgrounds

Faculty Mentor: Kathryn Blankenship

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this study was to measure the mean length of utterances in typically developing preschool children and to identify whether maternal education is an influential variable in morphological development. The study also researched the relationship between mean length of utterance (MLU) and number of different words (NDW).

Methods: 13 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 were recruited to participate in the study. To participate in the study, each participant had to be typically-developing in the area of language, nonverbal cognitive abilities and hearing. This was assessed using standardized measures. Then, a 15-minute language sample was taken and was analyzed for MLU and NDW.

Results: The results of this study showed that there was a medium correlation between MLU and maternal education and between MLU and NDW; however, statistical significance was not reached. The results suggest that as maternal education increased (e.g., mother's with higher levels of education) so did the length of MLU in the participants such that the participants from higher maternal education families had longer MLUs. Additionally, the results suggest that there is a relationship between NDW and MLU such that as the participants who had larger NDW had longer MLU.

Jared Frazier, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Jared Frazier

Practical Investigation of Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry for Fast Screening of Explosives

Faculty Mentor: Mengliang Zhang

Abstract: While the direct analysis in real time (DART) ionization source coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) is viable for the screening of trace explosives, current and previous methods have significant disadvantages for screening of explosives. This work demonstrates novel methods using DART-MS for the high-throughput and sensitive detection of nineteen organic explosive residues in four different categories deposited on several substrates. Explosive residues were selected based on their use in historical bombings that have tragically claimed the lives of civilians and the armed forces of many nations. To combat the threat of explosives to national security, several methods were investigated using DART-MS. The QuickstripTM sample card method was used to optimize DART gas heater temperature as well as dopants. Four sample introducing strategies for DART-MS including transmission, thermal desorption, closed mesh, and direct-insert methods were implemented to analyze liquid and dried samples deposited on five substrates. Fabric, leather, metal, plastic, and synthetic skin were selected to simulate realistic matrices for explosive residues. It was found that representative explosives from each category could be detected with nanogram sensitivity and in less than 1 O seconds. Therefore, the proposed methods using DART-MS provide prompt analysis of explosives for forensic applications.

Kayley Stallings, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Kayley Stallings

Effect of Tea Brewing Temperature and Tea Concentration on the Microbial Profile of Kombucha

Faculty Mentor: Keely O'Brien

Abstract: Kombucha, a fermented tea made with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), has been touted as a health beverage for years. Previously, the health benefits attributed to kombucha have been primarily anecdotal; however, as kombucha consumption has increased, scientists are beginning to question what causes the supposed benefits, with many researchers attributing the advantages to kombucha's microbial ecosystem. Previous research examining kombucha produced with different types of tea demonstrated many variations in the microbiome. Therefore, manipulating the amount of tea used and the tea brewing methods may affect the microbiome of kombucha as well. This study was conducted to determine how different kombucha production techniques - tea concentration and steeping temperature - alter the kombucha's microbiome. For this project, kombucha was made using varying concentrations of black tea and a range of brewing temperatures to determine if either had an effect on the microbial profile. The teas were fermented to the desired end-point and were then plated on selective agars to identify and quantify the types of microbes present. The results of this study will provide further insight into how different production practices affect the microbial profile of kombucha and how that might translate to the wellbeing of the consumer.

Lily Medley, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Lily Medley

Geochemical and Petrographic Attributes of Lavas Erupted at Small Volcanic Centers in Northern Oregon: Implications for Magma Formation Within an Intra-Volcanic Arc Graben

Faculty Mentor: Warner Cribb

Abstract: Quaternary volcanism in the northern Oregon Cascade Range is dominated by eruption of calc-alkaline andesite to rhyodacite lava flows and associated pyroclastic deposits at long-lived, subduction-driven composite volcanoes, such as Mt. Hood and Mount Jefferson. This study investigates small and more mafic Quaternary volcanoes in the Mt. Hood vicinity, including Clear Lake Butte (CLB), Pinhead Buttes (PHB), and Olallie Butte (OB). These volcanoes are located within an intra-volcanic arc graben, which developed approximately 7-8 Ma to the south and propagated northward to the Mt. Hood region. The research objective is to identify geochemical and petrographic similarities and differences among intra-arc graben lavas in order to better understand the conditions of magma formation at small volcanoes in the central to northern Oregon Cascade Range. This research is a comparison of geochemical and petrographic characteristics of Quaternary basalt and basaltic andesite lavas erupted at small volcanoes within the northern graben to those of primary and near-primary lavas, mainly erupted within southern graben regions.

Tia Shutes, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Tia Shutes

Initiation and Cannabinoid Assessment of Trichomes on Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) Tissue Callus

Faculty Mentor: John DuBois

Abstract: Industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is a species of the Cannabaceae family, used for many medical and industrial purposes, which centers around the cannabinoids of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These compounds are produced in trichomes (microscopic plant hairs), located on the surface of the plant. The objective of this project was to initiate trichomes via callus of various industrial hemp varieties and assess the cannabinoid concentration within the trichomes. using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC analysis of the callus produced from the Cherry, Cherry Blossom, and Cherry x Workhorse varieties showed promising presence of CBD. By successfully achieving this objective, researchers will have the ability to more effectively study trichome growth and cannabinoid production under laboratory conditions, which could ultimately lead to breakthroughs in future botany research and holistic medical discoveries.

Dirhat Mohammed, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2020

Dirhat Mohammed

Graduate Teaching Assistants’ Cognition Related to Teaching: A Comparison of STEM and Non-STEM Groups

Faculty Mentor: Grant E. Gardner

Abstract: Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) teach a large number of undergraduate students in many university departments, yet receive few opportunities for teaching professional development (PD). Understanding how to design effective, evidence-based PD requires scholars to first recognize graduate students' perception of teaching and learning that they bring to the classroom. However, there is very little research dedicated to measuring these variables related to effective teaching in GT As. Given the wide spectrum of disciplines that GTAs teach in, to better enhance the undergraduate education quality, the quality of PD programs for the GTA must be improved. This study examines whether STEM and non-STEM GT As cognition related to teaching differ between cognitive subscales of the instruments used, as well as whether there is a change in cognitive subscales on these instruments between pre- and post-surveys. Five instruments were used with a sample of n = 52 GTAs from various departments at a large southeastern university: Teacher Beliefs Instrument, Pedagogical Discontentment Inventory, Teaching Self-Efficacy Beliefs, Goal Orientations Toward Teaching, and the Instructional Practices. Results showed that there is no statistical difference between STEM and non-STEM groups' cognition related to teaching, and there were changes in the cognitive subscales over pre- and post-surveys.

Posters at the Capitol 2019

Read event coverage from MTSU News.

Event Photo Gallery

MTSU's 2019 Selected Participants

Seven students were selected to represent Middle Tennessee State University at the 2019 Posters at the Capitol event on February 26, 2019, in Nashville, TN.

Tessa Antonelli, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Tessa Antonelli
Faculty Mentor: Molly Taylor-Polesky
Project Title: Violence of American Serial Killers in the 1970s Using the Criminological Psychology of John Wayne Gacy as the Model

Abstract: This paper examines the upbringing and crimes of John Wayne Gacy, and how his experiences in childhood and beyond shaped his sociopathic behavior, leading him to be exposed as one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Additionally, my objective in my research is to explore why in the 1970s, America was plagued by violence caused by a rise in serial killers. Throughout the paper, varying factors in childhood abuse and trauma among serial killers of the late-1960s through early-1980s are highlighted. In addition to the violent nature of the crimes, the research also argues that the sexual nature of these serial killers’ murders are rooted in the severely disturbing upbringings they share. Ultimately, through newspaper articles, first-person accounts, and courtroom testimonies along with historiographic research and psychology journals the landscape of American violence in the 1970s is proved to be entrenched in the home, and the societal lack for protection of children.

Caldwell Charlet, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Caldwell Charlet
Faculty Mentor: Seockmo Ku
Project Title: Whole Cell Biocatalysis of Major Ginsenosides in Ginseng Beer Wort Using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae

Abstract: Korean (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius) ginseng are greatly valued plant medicines in the nutraceutical market. Ginseng contains phytochemicals such as triterpenoid saponins (a.k.a. ginsenosides), acidic polysaccharides, polyynes and volatile oils. Among them, ginsenosides are regarded as the key bioactive substances responsible for functional activities (e.g., anticancer, antitumor, antistress, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antioxidant effects). As major ginsenosides, Korean ginseng contains Rb1, Rc, Re, Rg1 and Rb2; American ginseng contains Rb1, Re and Rc. Despite the diverse functional properties of major ginsenosides in ginseng, the physiological applicability of ginsenosides is limited due to their high molecular weight and poor lipid bilayer permeability. Therefore, this paper details a process developed to biotransform major ginsenosides to more bioavailable deglycosylated ginsenosides via yeast biocatalysis accompanied by wort fermentation (beer production.) To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work describing bioconversion of major ginsenosides via wort fermentation.

Abigail Choisser, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Abigail Choisser
Faculty Mentor: J. Warner Cribb
Project Title: Insight into Interrelationships among Density, Viscosity, Crystallinity and Chemical Composition within Hypocrystalline Intermediate Lavas, Mt. Hood Volcano, Oregon

Abstract: Studying relationships between rheological properties, mineralogy, and chemical composition of magmas is important to understanding numerous processes, such as magma buoyancy, magma mixing, and rate of magma emplacement. This study examines the relationships between density, viscosity, chemical composition, mineralogical content, and percent crystallinity in intermediate magmas at Mt. Hood volcano in the Cascade Range. Most are two-pyroxene andesites (SiO2= 58 – 61 wt %) and basaltic andesites (SiO2 = 52 – 58 wt %). Temperature-dependent viscosities were calculated using the Giordano et al. (2008) method. Melt densities were calculated using partial molar volumes of oxide components using the Bottinga and Weill (1970) method. Both density and viscosity were calculated at temperatures ranging 700oC to 1200oC. Densities span 2.41 g/cm3 at 1200oC to 2.54 g/cm3 at 700oC. Viscosities span log η = 2.23 PaS at 1200oC to log η = 12.62 PaS at 700oC. Percent crystallinity of XRD sample spectra vary from 63% crystalline at log η = 2.23 PaS (SiO2 = 52.49 wt %) to 55% at log η = 3.58 PaS (SiO2 = 61.34 wt %). Density and viscosities when graphically correlated to crystallinity and chemical composition, provide insight into interrelationships among these physical properties within the volcano’s pre-eruptive magmatic system.

Joseph Gulizia, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Joseph Gulizia
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Downs
Project Title: The Influence of Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) Age on In Situ Rumen Degradation

Abstract: Early and late season kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) leaves were collected to analyze dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) in situ rumen disappearance to assess kudzu quality. Four studies were conducted during different growing seasons [2 repeated early season (ES); 2 repeated late season (LS)] to determine age variability effects. Kudzu collected from 7 middle Tennessee counties were incubated in the rumen for designated lengths of time (0.25, 1, 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 h) to determine total rumen degradation (%) and rate of disappearance (% / h). Data were analyzed as a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with repeated measures. Regression analysis was used to determine degradation rate. Overall season effects (across incubation times) for dry matter disappearance (DMD) were significantly different (P < 0.0001). Significant season by incubation time interactions were exhibited for total DMD at 12 (P < 0.0001), 24 (P = 0.0004), 36 (P = 0.0055), 48 (P = 0.0209), and 72 h (P = 0.0384) incubation, with an average rumen degradability of ES kudzu being 9.75% higher than LS between 12 and 72 h. Slope regression between 1 and 24 h determined a rumen degradation rate of 2.41% / h across both seasons, with no significant seasonal difference (P = 0.3396). These results are indicative that ES kudzu is more highly rumen degradable than LS, as evidenced by the significant season by incubation time interactions between 12 and 72 h of incubation. Although there are significant seasonal effects on kudzu DMD during certain incubation times, DMD overall for ES and LS is still indicative of high rumen degradability with an average of 81.45% at 72 h across both seasons. Season effects were minimal for NDF, ADF, and CP rumen disappearance.

Hannah Hall, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Hannah Hall
Faculty Mentor: John Dubois
Project Title: Inducing Somatic Embryogenesis of Grape (Vitis aestivalis “Norton/Cynthiana”) Callus

Abstract: Vitis aestivalis ‘Norton/Cynthiana’ is a hybrid commercial wine grape that is not reliably propagated by vegetative propagation. Tissue culture provides an alternative method for plant propagation. Due to a fungal endophyte that exists within the plant V. aestivalis obtaining unorganized callus cultures is a major challenge. With the Wilson et al. (2016) protocol fungus-free callus cultures can be obtained from explant tissue. The next step towards plantlet regeneration is inducing somatic embryogenesis from callus cultures. In our most recent study, callus cultures of two-plus years-old, 7-8 months-old, and four-months-old were plated onto new media types containing different combinations of plant growth regulators. Experimental media types contained varying levels of auxin (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or naphthoxyacetic acid) and cytokinin (benzylaminopurine), in the attempt to induce somatic embryogenesis. Phenylalanine was also added to increase rates of embryogenesis. Results showed no embryogenic responses. Media containing Murashige & Skoog salts showed higher rates of stress and death. Media with Lloyd & McCown salts produced compact callus with elongated growth. Younger callus showed a faster response to treatment, producing elongated and compact structures soon after receiving growth regulator treatment.

Kaylee Lindgren, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Kaylee Lindgren
Faculty Mentor: Nikki Jones
Project Title: Service Dogs in the Classroom for Children with Autism

Abstract: In the United States, approximately 1 in 59 children born are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Baio et al., 2018). Children that are diagnosed with ASD experience cognitive, emotional, and social deficits, resulting in antisocial interactions, negative behavior, and repetitive tendencies. Additionally, medical complications can be present in a child diagnosed with ASD. Multiple studies have shown service dogs to be beneficial to the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of a child with ASD. These benefits are present not only at home, but in an educational setting as well. Current federal policy permits the use of service dogs in public locations, but due to inconsistencies, lack of support, and enforcement in the legislation, parents are still having difficulties accessing aid of service dogs inside of the classroom. Furthermore, Tennessee policy regarding service dogs is outdated, magnifying the barriers in which parents have to go through to access the use of ASD service dogs inside of the classroom. Until federal and state policies can be amended to ensure service dogs will be permitted in the classroom, children with ASD and other disabilities will be at an educational disadvantage.

Sabrina Spicer, MTSU Posters at the Capitol presenter 2019

Student: Sabrina Spicer
Faculty Mentor: Kevin Bicker & Erin McClelland
Project Title: Towards a Clinical Antifungal Peptoid; Investigations into the Therapeutic Potential of AEC5

Abstract: Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen that causes cryptococcal meningitis in immunocompromised individuals. Current therapeutic options for cryptococcal infections are limited. Existing antifungal treatment plans have high mammalian toxicity and increased drug resistance, demonstrating the dire need for new, non-toxic therapeutics. Antimicrobial peptoids are one alternative to combat this issue. Structurally similar to antimicrobial peptides, AMPs capitalize on the efficacy of the innate immune response inherent of antimicrobial peptides while decreasing toxicity and drastically improving in-vivo stability. Our lab has successfully identified a tripeptoid, AEC5, with promising therapeutic potential against Cryptococcus neoformans. Studies into the mechanism of action, in-vivo half-life, and sub-chronic toxicity have further characterized AEC5 as a viable antimicrobial. Most notably, these studies determined an in-vivo half-life of 25 hours, as well as no in-vivo toxicity. This research represents an important step in the characterization of AEC5 as a practical treatment option against Cryptococcus neoformans, and also the development of new antifungal therapeutics as a whole.

Posters at the Capitol 2018

Student Class Mentor Dept College Title
Maia Council Senior Molly Poleskey History CLA Recover Nashville's Past
Brooke Fitzwater Senior Dennis Mullen Biology CBAS Habitat Selection by 2 Chilean Subtidal Blennies under Predation Pressure in a Chilean Costal Ecosystem
Natalie Foulks Senior Kathryn Blankenship HHP CBHS Narrative Discourse Performance in Older Adults
Lauren Hennessee Junior David Carleton Global Studies and Human Geography CLA Why Do Some States in the Middle East Have a Higher Level of Democratization than Others?
Janie Kullmar Senior Kathryn Blankenship HHP CBHS Word Learning in Authentic Versus Explicit Conditions
Salman Rahmani Senior Nate Callender Aerospace CBAS Flow Control of 3-Dimensional Bodies Utilizing CFD
Benjamin Yost Soph David Carleton Global Studies and Human Geography CLA Understaning the Modern Stage of International Adoption




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